The legal year, term dates and sitting days

Term dates

The term dates for the legal year apply to sittings in the High Court and Court of Appeal only, and are fixed in accordance with Practice Direction 2F which supplements Part 2 of the Civil Procedure Rule


Hilary: Thursday 11 January to Wednesday 27 March 2024
Easter: Tuesday 9 April to Friday 24 May 2024
Trinity: Tuesday 4 June to Wednesday 31 July 2024
Michaelmas: Tuesday 1 October to Friday 20 December 2024


Hilary: Monday 13 January to Wednesday 16 April 2025
Easter: Tuesday 29 April to Friday 23 May 2025
Trinity: Tuesday 3 June to Thursday 31 July 2025
Michaelmas: Wednesday 1 October to Friday 19 December 2025

Judicial sitting days

Court of Appeal Judges and High Court Judges are expected to devote themselves to judicial business throughout the legal year which usually amounts to somewhere in the region of 185-190 days.

Circuit Judges are expected to sit for a minimum of 210 days, although the expectation is for between 215-220 per year.

District Judges are expected to sit for a minimum of 215 days.

Judges also have out of court duties to perform such as reading case papers, writing judgments, and keeping up to date with new developments in the law.

Origins of the legal year

The service in Westminster Abbey dates back to 1897 when judges prayed for guidance at the start of the legal term. Judges, whose courts were held in Westminster Hall, left the city and walked to the abbey to take part in the service.

Present Day

The ceremonies now are more or less as they have always been but, instead of the two mile walk from Temple Bar to Westminster Abbey, the judges now travel by car.

The 45-minute service, which starts at 11:30am, is conducted by the Dean of Westminster. It includes prayers, hymns, psalms and anthems; the Lord Chancellor reads a lesson.

Around 700 people are invited to attend the service and breakfast. These include judges, senior judicial officers, the Law Officers, King’s Counsel (KC), government ministers, lawyers, members of the European Court and other overseas judges and lawyers. Judges and KCs wear ceremonial dress.

Disruption of ceremonies

Although well-established traditions, both ceremonies were cancelled during the last century. In 1940 the service had to be cancelled due to bomb damage in Westminster Abbey; it was not held again until 1946.

In 1953 the ceremony took place in St Margaret’s Church because structures and decorations for the coronation in the abbey had not been removed.